Zone Read: Jumping Through January

Just when you thought it was safe to take a breath from high school football, mid-January fills up with a number of interesting notes and storylines as we move closer to the late signing period which comes up in just a couple of weeks.

Look At the Lumberjacks

Speaking of recruiting, Chris Ball and his staff at Northern Arizona are following the blueprint started by long-time head coach, and the man Ball succeeded, Jerome Souers. 

As high school football continues to grow in Arizona, so too does the Jacks’ commitment to keep these student-athletes in state forty-eight. 

“The main thing we tell the people from the state of Arizona is, ‘We’re going to recruit this state better than anyone in the country,'” NAU Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Aaron Pflugrad told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a recent Skype interview. “We’re going to build a national championship team with kids from Arizona and that’s something special and bigger than yourself.”

Pflugrad is not only one of the up-and-coming coaches in college football, he’s also created a name for himself along the recruiting trail for his dedication and, more importantly, honesty with prospects throughout the state.

Opportunity Knocks

NAU isn’t the only school with positive recruiting momentum. While Arizona State has, as Head Coach Herm Edwards promised when he took over in Tempe, made California a top recruiting priority, the Sun Devils certainly have their fingerprints in and around the Valley.

The lead in many of ASU’s recent recruiting gains is Linebackers Coach Antonio Pierce who views “Team Sparky” as the land of immediate gratification for some signees, as well a chance to play with one of the best young players in college football.

“The opportunity is the biggest sell for us here at ASU and then obviously…we have Jayden Daniels,” Pierce said to Sports360AZ.com’s Recruiting Expert Jordan Hamm recently. “Everybody saw what he did in 12 games and then obviously, if you put enough talent around him, you’re going to be lighting up the scoreboards.”

Rest assured Pierce and the ASU is targeting in-state 2021 talents like Saguaro’s duo in offensive lineman Bram Walden and wide receiver/cornerback Denzel Burke.

Both could be immediate difference-makers wherever they decide to college home after this year.

Salpointe Switch…Again

Tucson Salpointe is on their second head coach of 2020 after Todd Schulte stepped away one month into the position to focus more on his faculty role at the Catholic school. The Lancers will go from one long-time assistant in Schulte, to another in Eric Rogers who will look to keep Salpointe not only the top football school in southern Arizona but one of the best in Arizona, as well.

“Salpointe is a special place,”  he said to the “Zone Read.” “I am looking forward to builded trusted, meaningful relationships with the Lancer community, administration, faculty, alumni, parents and our students, [as well as] continuing our tradition of excellence.”

Rogers, who was a standout at Canyon del Oro High and played linebacker at UCONN, will have to replace the majority of the production on both sides of the ball if the Lancers look to replicate their 10-1 2019 which ended with a close loss to eventual Open Division Champion Chandler.

He has coached 14 seasons at Salpointe as an assistant varsity coach, as well as head coach of the Freshman and JV teams.

First Offer

If you read this column with any consistency one of my biggest stresses to prep athletes, regardless of the sport, is worry about your grades before you worry about what MIGHT happen if you take care of things in the classroom.

In today’s social media world, access isn’t only easy, it’s immediate. Players frequently post Hudl video, which I’m completely fine with, as long as they’re getting things done away from athletics, as well.

One player who certainly has their priorities in line is Verrado 2021 running back Logan Gingg. Coming off a 1,400 yard, 20-touchdown season, Gingg picked up his first offer this week and it shows what can happen if you match your work ethic in the classroom with what you give on the field or court.

Don’t expect this offer to be anywhere close to his last, especially considering the off-season work Gingg is already focused on as we move closer to the end of January.

“The next few months will include…weight training and speed training every day of the week,” Gingg said to the “Zone Read.” “I am looking forward to bringing a different level of intensity this off-season in order to prepare for a successful senior season.”

To all of Verrado’s 2020 opponents: you’ve been warned.